If you’ve been wrong for 100 years, it’s time to admit it and move on. This is the message to opponents of immigration who have long argued that immigrants cannot assimilate and that the children of immigrants will live in poverty forever. In a new book, two economics professors from Stanford University (Ran Abramitzky) and Princeton University (Leah Boustan) show that today’s immigrants assimilate as well as past immigrants, and that their children are better off economically than the children of the native-born.
“Many believe that immigrants who come to the United States today from poor backgrounds will never catch up with the American-born,” Abramitzky and Boustan write in Streets of Gold: The Untold Story of Immigrant Success in America. “The data reveals a different pattern: children of immigrants from almost every country in the world, including poorer countries like Mexico, Guatemala and Laos, are more upwardly mobile than children of residents born in the United States. United States who were raised in families with a similar income level.
“The second misconception is that immigrants of the past, who came almost exclusively from Europe, did better than today’s immigrants, who come from all over the world. Our data reveal that, despite major changes in immigration policy over time, immigrants today are moving up the economic ladder at the same rate as European immigrants in the past.
Abramitzky and Boustan found: “The data show that current immigrants assimilate no more slowly into American society than former immigrants. In the past as today, immigrants make enormous efforts to join American society.
Their research, which integrated a century of large datasets, yielded another important finding: “Immigrant success does not come at the expense of American-born workers. »
The book provides an excellent introduction to immigration history, blending a discussion of the data with legal explanations and anecdotal evidence, including letters and interview records. Looking back over the past 100 years, the authors note: “During the 1920s, most of the proposed immigration restrictions came to fruition. The new entry quotas barred nine out of ten immigrants who would have been able to enter the United States freely only a decade earlier.
The speeches, articles and restrictions directed at immigrants at the time – primarily Catholics and Jews, who they believed could not assimilate into American society – were similar to those that then-candidate Donald Trump made against Muslims in 2016 and the arguments made today against Mexicans and other Latin American immigrants.
The authors note that while the Immigration Act of 1965 eliminated the discriminatory “national origin” quotas imposed in the 1920s, it removed immigration exemptions for Canadians and Mexicans. In addition to ending the Bracero program for agricultural workers, the restriction of legal pathways for Mexicans has led to the large increase in illegal entries we see to this day. “Many of the same Mexican immigrants who had arrived a few years earlier on Bracero contracts crossed the border, except that they were now reclassified as ‘illegal’ immigrants and therefore had reason to stay in the United States rather than risk further border crossings”, write Abramitzky and Boustan.
A crucial reason why children of immigrants do so well in America is immigrant mobility. “Immigrants tend to move to places in the United States that offer the best opportunities for their children, whereas the American-born are more rooted there,” according to the authors.
Abramitzky and Boustan discuss the contrast between immigrants and the plight of family members that JD Vance wrote about in his book Hillbilly Elegy, which focused on an economically depressed part of Ohio near the Kentucky border. “For Vance, climbing the ladder meant leaving his childhood community, a step that many Americans don’t want to take.”
Since running for the U.S. Senate, Vance has become an opponent of immigration, even against high-skilled temporary visas, and has hinted that restricting immigration would help people like those profiled in his book. However, the data cogently presented by economists Abramitzky and Boustan show that a policy of restricting immigration will not help people living in economically depressed parts of America. There is no connection between the two, except that immigrants show that the best approach is to move if necessary to improve your family’s chances of success in the United States.
Mohit “Mo” Bhende’s parents immigrated to America from India. Mo was born in Houston, Texas. Because his father’s job was in Houston and his mother’s residence was in New Orleans, he lived with his grandparents in Bombay until he was four years old. (Listen to a podcast with Mo’s story here.) The family reunited in New Orleans and later moved to Pittsburgh, where Mo was one of fewer than five Indian-American students in a high school with a upper class of 550.
Although he graduated seventh in his class, 12 colleges rejected Mo’s admission. He was accepted into his security school, Penn State, on a scholarship. He said the defining moment in his life came from his father’s reaction. Rather than being upset that his son was denied admission to many top colleges, Mo’s father told him, “All it takes is one” and encouraged him. to make the most of his time at Penn State. “This simple philosophy of all it takes is one has been a guiding thesis of my life,” Mo said. “All it takes is an investor, a co-founder, a woman, a house, a whole.” Today, Mo is CEO and co-founder of Karat, a $1.1 billion company with around 400 employees. The company identified a lucrative niche by launching the “Interview Cloud” to connect employers with needed software engineers.
“Now, as a parent myself, I understand very well the magnitude of the sacrifices my parents made for me,” Mo Bhende said in an interview. “As new immigrants with less than $100 in their pocket, their decision for me to live with my grandparents as children so they could establish themselves in their careers was a huge sacrifice, but one that ultimately established life-defining ties to my family and my heritage. not everything,” which ultimately guided me to find my purpose in creating Karat and identifying our organization’s purpose to unlock opportunities for all people. world.
Katya Echazarreta immigrated to America with her parents from Mexico when she was seven years old. ” She remembers being submerged in a new place where she didn’t speak the language, and a teacher warned her that she might have to be restrained,” according to CNN. Katya held four college jobs and contributed to her family’s income in high school, including working at McDonald’s. After earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UCLA, Katya worked for two years as an electrical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and plans to complete her master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University in 2023. On June 4, 2022, she was selected to join a Blue Origin spaceflight. She hopes to make space travel accessible to Americans like her, those who start life with little money but have big dreams.
“The dream that propels many immigrants to American shores is the possibility of providing a better future for their children,” write Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan. “Using millions of immigrant family records, we find that immigrant children are outperforming their parents and moving up the economic ladder both in the past and today. If this is the American dream , so immigrants do it, to a large extent.”